It was a night of music that turned to chaos and horror. There were 22,000 country music fans at the outdoor Las Vegas concert when the shooting started. Police said 59 people died and 527 were injured when a shooter rained gunfire down on them from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel. Here are the accounts of survivors and their loved ones, interviewed by The Associated Press.
‘THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US’
James Cabrera, said he and his wife, Sonia Pena, were at home in La Habra, California, when their 21-year-old daughter Jessica called them from the musical festival shortly after 10 p.m. desperately recounting her horror as gunfire rang out in the background.
“We could hear everything that was going on there, the gunfire, the people yelling,” Cabrera said Monday morning as he sat at a slot machine in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. “We knew we had to get there right away.”
“She was screaming into the phone,” said Cabrera of his daughter. She yelled, ‘They’re shooting at us, people are falling, I love you!’”
Their hearts racing, the couple jumped in their car and got to Las Vegas as fast as they could, in less than four hours, Cabrera said. “That was the fastest drive in history from California to Vegas,” he said.
Later, the couple learned that their daughter and a friend she went with who went with to the festival had escaped unharmed and hid inside a bathroom at the MGM Hotel until morning.
“But the people right next to them who they made friends with were shot,” the father said. Cabrera said he knew few other details because his daughter remained too upset to talk about what happened.
The couple said they would stay until they were sure their daughter was calm enough to drive back home.
“I’m OK, Grandma,” Brandon Clack said into his cellphone Monday, seeking to reassure relatives who knew he had planned to attend the country music festival in Las Vegas that was targeted by a gunman the night before.
Clack said he looked forward to the event, buying tickets and booking his hotel months in advance with a group of about 30 people from his Orange County community of La Palma, California, including his girlfriend, his brother, his mother and her boyfriend.
He and his relatives escaped injury, but Clack said he learned later that a young man traveling with his group had been shot and killed.
Clack, a 21-year-old community college student, said he and his 20-year-old girlfriend Leslie Reynoso were sitting up near the front facing the stage when the shooting started, a kind of “cracking noise” off to the right.
“We thought it was some kind of fireworks,” Clack said.
But the performers rushed off the stage, “and we could tell it was multiple, multiple rounds. It went on for a long time, like 10 minutes.”
As the gunfire kept up, he said, hundreds of people rushed toward the doors. Soon rivers of screaming people were running in horror, searching for safety in the towering hotels around them, Clack said.
“People started running over to the Tropicana, so we decided to run over to the MGM,” he said.
Members of the group, including Clack’s mother and brother, were staying at a number of hotels near the concert venue.
Clack and Reynoso said they hunkered down with family friends at a room at the MGM for about four hours until authorities declared the situation clear.
WHEN THE MUSIC STOPPED, SHE KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG
Marie Langer, 16, of Las Vegas, got to the concert early so she could get to the very front of the venue, closest to the stage.
When the shooting started, she thought it was fireworks at first. But after the performance was suddenly halted, she realized there was something wrong.
“A few seconds after that (Jason Aldean) just ran off the stage, and that is when everyone realized that it wasn’t fireworks,” she said. “That’s when everyone started yelling, ‘get down, get down!’ ”
She said that one of the crew members for the event went onto the stage and tapped on several different microphones in an effort to warn the crowd to evacuate, but none of them worked.
“He would tap on it and would try to talk. But it didn’t work,” she said.
Langer said she was among the last people out of the venue because she was so close to the front stage. She could hear shots ringing out and people screaming the entire time she was trying to flee the scene.
When she finally reached a back fence, there were police that told her she had to get to the other side. But the fence had points on the top of metal bars designed to prevent people from getting over it.
Her and her friends climbed over the fence anyway. “We had no other option,” she said.
Langer said she had some scrapes and bruises but was not seriously injured.
CHAOS IN THE DARK
Like many people attending the musical festival, 33-year-old Jason Sorenson said he initially thought the shooter’s gunfire was the sound of fireworks from another venue nearby.
“We couldn’t tell where it was coming from,” said Sorenson of Newport Beach, California, who had traveled to Las Vegas with his girlfriend for the event.
But it became clear that someone was firing at the crowd after singer Jason Aldean abruptly dropped his guitar and fled the stage in terror.
“It was horrific, we just starting running and we saw people with blood all over their shirts,” he said. “I was bracing himself to be hit by a bullet any second.”
Sorenson said the couple had initially been sitting down on the ground in the middle facing the stage. But by coincidence had moved up to a safer VIP area they had access to before the shooting began.
“If we had stayed in the front we would have been in the direct line of fire,” said Sorenson.
Between each round of gunfire, he said, the crowd surged, everyone running as far as they could get until a gun was reloaded or replaced with another weapon and the shooting resumed.
“We ran and ducked, ran and ducked until we got as far away as we could,” he said.
Sorenson ended up in an elevator with a young woman who had been separated from her fiance. She invited people to stay in her room until the danger had subsided.
“It wasn’t clear how it bad it was, however, (until) this morning when we walked through the hotel lobby and saw the news on the TVs saying that more than 50 people had died,” said Sorenson.
MOMENTS OF KINDNESS
Amid the terror, one couple found moments of kindness, and possibly a guardian angel.
Andrew Akiyoshi, who captured the gunfire on a cellphone video he provided to The Associated Press, attended the concert with friend Loreli Sakach. The couple from Orange County, California, recalled the panic and masses of people fleeing in fear but also the humanity of bystanders.
“We ended up in the MGM, and a couple was nice enough to buy us some drinks,” Akiyoshi said.
Then a rumor swept the crowd at the MGM of another shooter. It turned out to be false. But “all of a sudden a mass of people, probably a hundred people are running again,” Sakach said.
They sought refuge in a restaurant where “they were kind and gave us tablecloths to wear and food and everybody was so nice and kind.”
As they exited one of the hotels, Sakach spotted a penny and picked it up.
“You know, angels must have been looking out over us,” said Akiyoshi, whose late father always believed in picking up pennies for good luck.
Sakach said she handed the penny to Akiyoshi, and he said, “Thanks Dad.”